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Vandergrift mayor candidate lacks enthusiasm for winning

| Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2001

VANDERGRIFT: The race for mayor might not be much of a contest because one of the candidates said she has become disillusioned with politics.

Republican Ursula D. Clark, 39, decided in the spring to run against Mayor Jack Jewart, 67. Originally, Clark wanted to try to eliminate criminal behavior in the community, she said.

Then, somewhere along the way, she decided that the mayor in this town of 5,455 residents is nothing more than a figurehead with no real power to change things.

"To be honest with you, I'm not looking forward to winning," Clark said Monday. "If I win, we'll have to take it from there. I wish the mayor that's in office a good run."

Despite her change of heart, Clark didn't withdraw her name from the ballot by the Aug. 13 deadline.

Clark said she doubts she could influence Vandergrift government. She scoffed when a reporter told her that mayors have a chance to influence policy discussions and bring priorities to the council table. Many mayors have considerable influence in police departments, too.

"Will I be listened to and will I be heard?'' Clark said. "That's why I didn't bother to campaign anymore."

For its election coverage, The Valley News Dispatch asked both mayoral candidates the same questions.

Clark refused to answer any.

That put Jewart, a Democrat, in an uncrowded arena to discuss questions about improving Vandergrift.

To boost development in the business district, Jewart said he would like to advertise the town's historical charm and family-friendly, senior-safe climate.

He listed several downtown business voids that an entrepreneur could fill with success. Dixon's Bakery along Grant Avenue left seven years ago. There's no coffee shop and there's no place to buy shoes. Someone could bring in a women's clothing store, he said.

Vandergrift's most pressing problem, like so many Valley river towns, is its need for economic recovery, Jewart said.

"Many businesses have closed because of job losses, compelling families to leave, which diminishes tax revenue," Jewart said.

To get ideas on how to reverse this trend, Jewart would like to revive his mayor's advisory committee that he began in 1998 when he was elected mayor.

Made up of average residents, Jewart would like the advisory committee to tackle one problem at a time instead of spreading itself thin on multiple problems, as he said it initially did.

Paula Pedicone, Westmoreland County's Election Bureau Director, couldn't answer questions about whether political changes of heart such as Clark's occur often. Pedicone said political issues are outside her office's jurisdiction.

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